Etruscan vase

Etruscan ceramic vase ca. 540 B.C.E-530 B.C.E

This vase was found in Vulci , Italy and it is thought to have been made in the 6th century B.C.E. Belonging to the Etruscan civilization, the ceramic vase shows influence from the Greeks [See Sprenger and Bartoloni 1983, 68]. From analyzation, it is thought to have been used to serve wine or oil during feasts [See Boardman 1998, 263]. 

Technical EvaluationEdit

This artifact from the Etruscan civilization is made of ceramic and, according to a profile, is amphorae in nature [See Sparkes 1996, 169]. The time period of the production of this vase correlates to the Archaic age (c. 600-480 BCE), an age that flourished in black-figure pottery [See Sparkes 1996, 10]. Workshops in Vulci were created to specialize in pottery so they could keep up with the demand, but also during the time span of 550-480 BCE, there was a rush of importation of pottery from the Greeks [See Cristofani]. Black-figure pottery became popular due to this importation and it is presumed that East Greeks immigration was the cause for this influence [See Cristofani]. This particularly vase is an example of both black and red figure, a merge between the two styles. Although the red style was embraced in the middle of the 5th century BCE, there were mixtures of the two styles produced as a sort of trial and error [See Beazley 1947, 3]. Another style correlates with this vase based on time frame - the Pontic style - which was spread by the Paris painter; his followers included the Amphiaraos Painter, the Painter of Bibliotheque Nationale 178, the Tityos Painter, and the Silen Painter [See Cristofani]. This type of decorated pottery has also thought to have originated from the Greeks, particularly from cities located around the Black Sea, but the Pontic style vases were found in Vulci, the location of their workshop [See Sprenger and Bartoloni 1983, 69], thus production was centered within Etruria . Pottery that was highly decorated, such as this artifact, were produced on fast wheels [See Boardman 1998, 11], and this method of production was more advanced compared to the 9th and 8th century BCE, which consisted of impasto material [See Cristofani]. Artifacts from the Etruscan civilization were officially documented around the 17th century CE, although discoveries were made before then [See Bloch 1969, 14-15].     

Local Historical ContextEdit

The Etruscan civilization was situated in the region of Etruria, which encompassed the heart of Italy. Not too much is known about this civilization, they are the least known civilization of the Mediterranean [See Sprenger and Bartoloni 1983, 11]. The civilization originated in the 12th-11th century BCE and by the 9th century BCE communities and culture had been established [See Cristofani]. Tradition has it that the Etruscan people had migrated during the 13th century BCE from Asia Minor [See Bloch 1969, 65]. Recent research suggests that the Etruscan culture was developed locally in Italy, as opposed to the idea that the Etruscan culture was brought with foreign migrants to Italy, and there is also evidence to suggest that the Etruscan, as a people, were natives of Italy, rather than having migrated from Anatolia or from outside of Italy ( The language of the Etruscans is rather different, yet its alphabet is Greek in origin [See Bloch 1969, 72 and 81]. The language is a mystery, the origins are not clear, but the writing has been decoded yet the overall formulation of Etruscan writing remains a mystery as well [See Sprenger and Bartoloni 1983, 12]. The Etruscans were polytheistic, held great importance of the cosmos, and there is a fusion with Greek mythology [See Sprenger and Bartoloni 1983, 17]. Temples and rituals were created for the gods [See Cristofani]. Fusion most likely occurred by trade. In the 6th and 5th centuries BCE, Etruria was expanding and trading due to new locations created on the Tyrrhenian coast [See Cristofani]. Again, not much is known about the Etruscans, therefore their society is not very well-known. The civilization did not have states, per se, but there were city-states that were ruled by a king, called a lucumon [See Sprenger and Bartoloni 1983, 18]. Society was divided into sections: the gentes, the highest class and one of wealth; the officials, who ran for offices; the "dependents," who most likely did not possess rights; the slaves; the lautni, free people who were associated with families; lastly, the etera, who were slaves with some rights [See Springer and Bartoloni 1983, 19]. The pottery makers themselves were probably not high in class, but the highly decorated vases were most likely bought by the wealthy classes, however, the system of gift-giving in Etruscan society cannot be fully reasoned [See Boardman 1998, 266].  

World-History SignificanceEdit

The Etruscan civilization was similar in many ways to the Greeks: religiously, politically, and artistically. The Etruscan trade with Greece and the Middle East brought new ideas and styles to their culture [See Pasquier 1991, 55]. They worked with metals, and gold, but the Etruscans did contribute something to the world of art - Bucchero pottery - which was black, fine clay [See Pasquier 1991, 55]. This new clay, seen beginning in the 7th century BCE, was better than the old impasto substance because it was more malleable, thus new forms could be created [See Cristofani]. Bucchero was a sedge way to the advancements in Etruscan pottery, and provided an identification for the Etruscan civilization. 

Suggested BibliographyEdit

John Boardman, Early Greek Vase Painting (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1998), 114-117, 151, 217-223.

Raymond Bloch, The Ancient Civilization of The Etruscans, trans. James Hogarth (New York: Cowles, 1969).

Alain Pasquier, The Louvre: Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities (London: Scala, 1991), 55-65.

 Maja Sprenger and Gilda Bartoloni, The Etruscans: Their History, Art, and Architecture, trans. Robert Erich Wolf (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1983).

 Mauro Cristofani, et al. "Etruscan." Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press, accessed April 10, 2013,

Brian A. Sparkes, The Red and The Black: Studies in Greek Pottery (New York: Routledge, 1996), 10-18, 34-63.

J.D. Beazley, Etruscan Vase-Painting (London: Oxford, 1947). 

Britannica Online, "Vulci"

Britannica Online, "Etruria"

Britannica Online, "Greek mythology"

Britannica Online, "city-state"

Beazley Archive, "Amphorae"